Transgender Day of Advocacy at the North Carolina General Assembly

Sarah Hogg, Advocacy & Organizing Manager at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina

On Wednesday, May 25, I was pleased to represent NARAL Pro-Choice NC as a participant in Transgender Day of Advocacy, a lobbying event hosted by TurnOUT! NC, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Equality North Carolina, the Human Rights Campaign, and PFLAG. While previous advocacy days addressed how HB2 effects everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, Wednesday’s activities specifically focused on how HB2 impacts transgender North Carolinians.

Transgender Day of Advocacy began at the North Carolina Museum of History with a warm welcome by Chris Sgro, Executive Director of Equality North Carolina and a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, followed by lobbying and social media trainings. At 10 a.m., we all gathered in the lobby of the Museum for a “Transgender North Carolinians, Families, and Friends For Repeal of HB2” press conference, where trans North Carolinians shared their personal stories, reactions to HB2, and the need for a full repeal of the law. Finally, before we headed to our lobbying appointments, we heard from Representative Duane Hall about lobbying tips, the detrimental statewide effects of HB2, and the importance of pushing bills that would repeal HB2, two of which he has cosponsored.

At 11:30 it was time to get into groups and head to our first lobbying appointment. My group, made up of myself, Georgia (a member of Triangle PFLAG), Ben (an Equality NC staffer), and Cole, Maddy, Parker, and Tony (researchers, students, and interns at Duke University working on a data project on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey), was wonderful. When we weren’t meeting with legislators, we were sharing our own stories with each other on everything from organizing in a red state to queer feminist activism to being the parent of a transgender child.

Throughout the day, our group met with Representative Nelson Dollar, Senator Tamara Barringer, and Beverlee Baker, Representative George Graham’s legislative aide. We also dropped off a number of letters urging a full repeal of HB2 to legislators who were out of their offices or in session. In a couple of our meetings, it was clear that a number of misconceptions about trans people and what they are doing in bathrooms are still prevalent among our state legislators. While these conversations were difficult to have, our two group storytellers did a fantastic job of debunking these myths by sharing their stories of being a trans North Carolinian and the parent of a trans child.

To wrap up the day, we made our way back to the Museum of History for a debrief with the other lobby groups and Equality North Carolina staff. Everyone agreed that they had deeply challenging, but also deeply rewarding conversations with legislators who initially voted in favor of HB2 (and who we were now lobbying to vote for a repeal). Participants emphasized that sharing their own stories of being a trans North Carolinian or having a trans spouse or child obviously put some food for thought in legislators’ minds, and that these Senators and Representatives often asked storytellers for more information or to stay behind to chat a bit more while the rest of their lobby group moved on. Over and over again, attendees compared their experience talking to legislators as being the water that wears down a rock: the process may be slow, but change will happen. While HB2 may not be repealed tomorrow, our presence at the legislature did make a difference.

Thanks to my lobbying group and the stories shared by other participants during the debrief, I left Transgender Day of Advocacy feeling inspired and hopeful – but there is still much work to be done. As a queer woman and reproductive rights advocate, I know how damaging and dangerous HB2 is to my community, as well as how absolutely necessary it is that reproductive rights organizations fight back against this discriminatory legislation. HB2, which seeks to legislate the way certain bodies exist, move through, and experience the world, particularly where those bodies are allowed to go or not go, is a reproductive rights and justice issue. We must continue to highlight that this bill is anti-trans, anti-worker, and anti-queer and turn up the pressure on the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal HB2.

Check out photos from Transgender Day of Advocacy below! Feeling fired up and ready to take action on HB2? Join NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and TurnOUT! NC for a Repeal HB2 canvass in Wake County on June 11.

Wrapping Up the Semester at Duke University

By Taylor Johnson, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at Duke University

This semester was my first experience as a NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Campus Leader for Duke University, and I have already learned so much. Out of the gate I had a lot of plans, some of which, like weekly discussions about women’s rights, reproductive rights, and the rights of female students on campus, came to fruition. However, in light of the tumultuous situations occurring on my campus this semester, some of my plans had to fall to the wayside in order to capitalize on the activist momentum around the 7-day occupation of the Allen building in order to secure rights for Duke workers, a great many of whom are long-time employees, women, and people of color.

Though the activism originally began in response to a Chronicle article about Duke’s Executive Vice President Tallman Trask hitting a female parking attendant, Shelvia Underwood, with his car and allegedly calling her a racial slur, it evolved to include a great many other things. We had visits from local activists from campaigns like Raise Up: the fight for $15/hour as well as informal class sessions by local faculty on relevant issues such as student activism in India and the political history of youth activism.

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I can say with absolute honesty that the few weeks I spent in a tent out on the Abele quad in front of the Allen building showed me more about activism and community on college campuses than any of my other college experiences. It helped to establish connections between like-minded people separated by circumstance, previously divided into their own individual campaigns for justice and uninformed about the other activities going on around them.

As a clear example of this, following the dismantling of the tents for the summer, students got wind of an administrative decision to move the Women’s Center from its prominent position on the west campus bus loop to an unknown corner of east campus, tucked away behind student dorms, underneath the Duke Coffeehouse. Immediately, a huge wave of protest appeared, spear-headed in large part by the veterans of Abele quad, many of whom worked in some capacity with the Women’s Center and who I’d been in discussions with every day for the past few weeks.

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Complaints and concerns about the move included: the invisibility of the center in an untraversed and relatively unknown part of campus, where only first years live and where students from all other campuses will have to travel a great deal further to get to; the fact that sexual misconduct hearings, where those accused of rape or assault sit in front of a committee, would occur in the exact same building as the Women’s Center, where many survivors of assault go to seek counseling and could therefore run into their assailants;  the fact that the Women’s Center, in its original space on West Campus, had become a familiar safe haven to many students seeking therapy on issues such as gender or relationship violence as well as eating or body dysmorphic disorders, that they would now lose.

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Addressing these concerns to the administration, we wrote letters, signed petitions, and created collective art demonstrating the mass protest against the move. For more information, check out this guest column in the Chronicle to stop the move, as well as a personal blog by a friend of mine and former Women’s Center intern McCall Hollie in regards to the decision. In spite of this, the administration moved along with their decision, and the Women’s Center was relocated. Over the summer and the next semester, I envision that a great deal of my position as Campus Leader will be focused on addressing the issues brought up by this move and rectifying the lack of space for discussion of women’s and reproductive rights issues on this campus.

Until next semester,

Taylor

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your college or university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.

Wrapping Up the Semester at North Carolina State University

By Leah Block, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at North Carolina State University

While April marks the end of the semester and the beginning of final exams for most students, there was no shortage of activism at NC State. We saw continued efforts to repeal House Bill 2 through mass sit-ins and marches at the State Capitol, as well as efforts to protect and expand reproductive rights in North Carolina. I made it my goal this semester to extend as many activism-related opportunities to students as possible. Some events of note included the Trapped film screening, Take Back The Night, Bowl-A-Thon, and the Susan Hill Event.

Not even technical difficulties could keep the NC State Trapped film screening from being a huge success. Students, professors, citizens of Raleigh, and even clinic escorts attended the screening of this 2016 documentary. The film follows the struggles of clinic workers and lawyers who are on the front lines of a battle to keep abortion safe and legal for millions of American women. In particular, the film follows the fight against Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP). TRAP restrictions can increase mandatory waiting periods for abortion care and put unnecessary regulations on clinics. In some states, women must drive hundreds of miles to reach the nearest abortion clinic, sometimes even flying out and taking days off from work. By making students aware of such laws, we can be prepared to take on the policies which are hurting women across the country. I had great, thought-provoking conversations with students of all ages after the film screening, many of whom asked me how they can help. Some even expressed an eager interest in becoming a clinic escort. To me, this is what the Campus Leader program is all about.

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Every seat was filled at the Trapped film screening!

April is the official month for the National Abortion Access Bowl-A-Thon. Bowl-A-Thon provides abortion funds for women in need across the country, whether it be travel or reproductive health care costs. The goal of the funds are to make abortion accessible to women of low socioeconomic incomes.  This month, bowling teams across North Carolina took on the challenge of raising $50,000 in the name of the pro-choice movement. We raised 84% of our goal in total, despite having been attacked by radical anti-abortion extremists, who carried out an extensive and time-consuming cyber attack on the Bowl-A-Thon’s network. Despite the challenges, the Carolina Abortion Fund came out on top thanks to all the brave pro-choice individuals fighting to protect reproductive rights.

This month, I attended Take Back the Night, which occurs yearly at NC State. Take Back the Night aims to create a space in which survivors of rape and sexual assault can be heard and feel safe to express their stories and concerns with the current system. During the rally, which drew hundreds, student volunteers from Students Advocating Gender Equality (SAGE) handed out reproductive health resources such as pamphlets, condoms, and buttons to attendees. After the rally, there was a march and a Speak Out. During the Speak Out, many survivors of rape and sexual assault chose to share their experiences in a safe and supportive setting. This was a very powerful event to attend, to say the least. Though discussing rape and sexual assault can be very painful, I am hoping those who chose to share feel validated, empowered, and supported by the Wolfpack community.

To wrap up the month and academic year, I attended the 2016 Susan Hill Event. I had the pleasure of volunteering alongside other Campus Leaders, who shared with me their experiences as an intern so far. I also had the pleasure of listening to keynote speaker Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which has been the face of the battle against TRAP regulations this year. Her speech struck inspiration into the hearts of everyone in the room. To see and hear the optimism of everyone was very encouraging to me as an activist and as a person. I had the opportunity to mingle with various leaders in the pro-choice movement including NARAL Pro-Choice NC’s new Executive Director, Tara Romano. I am excited to see what next semester holds for me and NARAL Pro-Choice NC!

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Leah Block and Ian Grice at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s 2016 Susan Hill Event

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your college or university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.

Wrapping Up the Semester at UNC Chapel Hill

By Justine Schnitzler, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

I can’t believe I’ve spent an entire semester working as NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s campus representative for UNC-Chapel Hill! It sounds cliché, but time really does fly when you’re having fun. I wanted to use my last blog post of the semester to reflect on my last few major projects, and give everyone a heads up on some of the work I am planning for next year!

First up: I hosted a very successful screening of TRAPPED, the new documentary about “TRAP” laws, which stand for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. After some scrambling to secure a screening room, several last-minute trips to Harris Teeter for snacks, and a bit of luck, the event went off without a hitch! The film itself was certainly sobering—we created a hashtag for viewers to tweet their reactions to the film, and most noted how simultaneously ridiculous and heartbreaking the laws are. Planning the TRAPPED event was difficult, but ultimately, we reached out to over forty people and collaborated with a new student group on UNC’s campus: UNC Nursing Students for Choice, organized by Laura Britton. I am eagerly looking forward to working with them again in the coming semester and year!

To finish the semester, I conducted an informal photo campaign aimed at destigmatizing abortion services and abortion care access. It was difficult to get enough folks together in one place, especially during finals season, but I ended up with some very kind and generous participants and great photos to share with both NARAL and all you readers! Check out some of the photos below!

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Justine Schnitzler, student and NARAL Pro-Choice NC Campus Leader at UNC-CH

Looking ahead to next year, I am in the preliminary planning stages for several awesome events. I hope to execute a large, campus-wide photo campaign; host an open panel for students on the topic of abortion care and access, in the context of the upcoming election; and work a successful fundraising event for the Carolina Abortion Fund! I am so ready to pick up my work with NARAL Pro-Choice NC in the fall, and I remain incredibly grateful for the chance to work with such an important organization.

Until next fall,

Justine

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your college or university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.

March Update from North Carolina State University

By Leah Block, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at North Carolina State University

This Women’s History Month was quite eventful in terms of social justice-related happenings in North Carolina and around the country. This month, North Carolina saw the controversial House Bill 2 get signed into law; the biggest birth control case in 40 years hit the Supreme Court; and NC citizens demanded the expansion of medicaid. Needless to say, I have been busy here at NC State keeping students in the know on how these issues may affect them.

In 1996, March 10 was declared National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day to celebrate those who put their lives on the line to provide reproductive health services and abortion care. As this day falls nicely in Women’s History Month, I decided to organize an event surrounding the history of anti-choice violence and provider appreciation. I advertised this event as an opportunity for NC State students to show their appreciation for local abortion providers and meet other social justice-oriented students. The event started out with a presentation on the risks associated with being an abortion provider and why we ought to thank them as often as possible. Abortion providers around the country have been subject to over 300 acts of violence between 1973 and 2003 alone.

Since then, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) reported more than 176,000 instances of picketing at clinics (and nearly 34,000 arrests). NAF has documented more than 16,000 reported cases of hate mail or harassing phone calls, over 1,500 acts of vandalism and 400 death threats. The United States has witnessed assassinations, bombings, and mass murders carried out at abortion clinics and on abortion providers. (This makes me wonder, who here is really “pro-life?”) This March, about 30 NC State students came together to let providers know that we will defend, love, and support them in any way possible. The students made a sizable pile of “thank you” cards, which will soon be sent off to local abortion providers. Overall, this event was fun and successful. I am so excited to send off these creative and genuine cards to local abortion providers!


Unfortunately, this Women’s History Month saw some less progressive policies fall into place in North Carolina. For one, House Bill 2, which effectively eliminated all LGBTQ+ non-discrimination ordinances in the state and forces transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to the sex noted on their birth certificate, was signed into law 3 weeks ago. Not only does HB2 roll back years of civil rights activism, it also is a direct blow to women’s rights. Now businesses in North Carolina can legally discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation, which will affect women across the state. Furthermore, As Representative Insko stated during this bill’s debate on the House floor, “This bill is ‘supposed to protect’ girls and women. This bill does NOT protect transgender girls or women.” HB2 increases the chances of bathroom harassment against trans individuals and demonizes trans women by deeming them perverts and predators.

 Since HB2 was passed, rallies and protests have been popping up all over the state.  Along with many members of Students Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE) at NC State, I took to the streets to protest this outrageous bill.


House Bill 2, being the regressive bill that it is, is a reproductive justice issue. Furthermore, if North Carolina legislators have no problem passing HB2, it’s likely they would have no problem introducing more anti-choice legislation during the upcoming legislative session. We must stop dangerous bills before they are signed into law and we must repeal HB2 before North Carolina legislators get any more “great ideas.”

This month, North Carolina policymakers have also been busy with plans of Medicaid reform. However, there has been little mention of Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is essential for women, notably women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as it provides critical family planning care, birth control, and even cancer screenings. In fact, half of Planned Parenthood patients are covered by Medicaid, and 1 in 10 women rely on Medicaid to receive life-saving healthcare

It is crucial to expand Medicaid to the 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians who may be in dire need of health care services. Fortunately, the folks working on Medicaid reform have been traveling the state, seeking input from the citizens of North Carolina. When they came to Raleigh, other students and I accompanied Planned Parenthood volunteers to show our support for Medicaid expansion. Many of us shared our personal Medicaid stories, while also applauding those who spoke up in defense of Medicaid expansion.


While it’s been a busy month here in North Carolina, I am constantly inspired by the persistent and powerful young activists fighting for change every day. I am confident that North Carolina will continue to grow and move in the right direction, so as long as we are unrelenting in our activism. In the end, it is the power of the people that will prevail over bigotry and hatred.

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your college or university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.